After an incident-filled first day of Rally Finland for the Subaru team, Petter Solberg holds fifth place overall, but remains less than five seconds behind the top-three with two days of competition still to go. Solberg recorded a string of ...
After an incident-filled first day of Rally Finland for the Subaru team, Petter Solberg holds fifth place overall, but remains less than five seconds behind the top-three with two days of competition still to go. Solberg recorded a string of top-three times during the Leg, and won two stages outright, before a dramatic landing after a jump on SS8 cost him 20 seconds and two positions on the leaderboard. Chris Atkinson's encouraging WRC debut in Finland came to an end on SS4 after a collision with a rock. He will re-start tomorrow under the Superally regulations to get more experience of the specialist conditions.
SS1: 1900 Thurs Killeri 1 (2.06km)
Leg one of Rally Finland got underway on Thursday night when crews tackled the spectator-friendly Superspecial stage at Killeri. Constructed on a loose surface oval race track, more typically used for the popular Finnish sport of horse-trotting, the circuit extended into the car parking areas outside the complex to make a twisty and challenging 2.9km loop. Even though rain fell throughout the evening, Finnish rally fans lived up to their hardy reputation and thousands flocked to the track to watch the head-to-head racing. Over such a short distance the times of the top drivers were extremely close - the top 17 were separated by less that 2sec - but Subaru's Petter Solberg edged ahead of the pack to take the stage win and the overnight lead. Fastest Stage Time: Solberg (Subaru) 1:23.0
SS2: 0851 Lankamaa (24.98km)
After heavy overnight rain, crews left the service area in Jyvaskyla at 0740hrs to begin the second section of Leg one. Although the rain had stopped, the sky remained overcast as drivers started the first proper stage of the rally, the 24km section from the town of Lankamaa. Citroen's Sebastien Loeb set the pace and recorded the quickest time to move ahead of Solberg and into the lead of the rally. Marcus Gronholm was second for Peugeot, with Petter Solberg third in his Impreza WRC2005. Drivers reported that the rain had made the stage very muddy and slippery in places. Mitsubishi driver Gigi Galli was the first of the WRC regulars to get caught out when his car slid wide soon after the mid-point. The Italian's Lancer WRC collected front suspension damage and he retired from the Leg. Galli's stricken car partially blocked the stage which caused problems for the next car through, the Skoda of Jani Paasonen. While carefully trying to squeeze his Fabia WRC around Gigi's car, the Skoda slid off the road and became stuck in a ditch. Helped by spectators, and Gigi and his co-driver, Jani managed to get going again, but the incident cost him around 2min 30sec. Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen) 11:57.1
SS3: 0939 Laukaa (11.82km)
Last year's winner of Rally Finland, Marcus Gronholm, set the fastest time on the 11km Laukaa stage. With plenty of experience of his home rally, the Finn was 4.2sec faster than his nearest rival, Markko Martin and 4.4sec quicker than Sebastien Loeb, which meant he moved into the overall lead. Petter Solberg was sixth fastest, while Chris Atkinson rounded off the top-ten times, just four seconds behind his Subaru team-mate. Fastest Stage Time: Gronholm (5:39.2)
SS4: 1034 Ruuhimaki (7.57km)
Only 7km long, Ruuhimaki was one of the shortest stages of the event, but its narrow, high-speed route with plenty of jumps and blind crests also made it one of the most spectacular. Marcus Gronholm was fastest, a slender 0.4sec ahead of Sebastien Loeb in second, with Petter Solberg third. The stage proved a disappointing one for Subaru when Chris Atkinson retired almost within sight of the finish line. After an encouraging start, the young Australian stopped 0.7km before the end after his car clipped a rock on the apex of a slow left-hand corner. The rock caused suspension and steering damage and sidelined Chris for the rest of the Leg. He is expected the re-start the rally on Leg two under the Superally system. After the stage, crews headed back to Jyvaskyla for a 30-minute service. Fastest Stage Time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 3:55.3
SS5: 1238 Vellipohja 1 (33.93km)
New for 2005, the 33km stage from Vellipohja featured a wide variety of road conditions. Starting with a twisty and technical section for the first 10km, the pace gradually quickened until the final 8km which were tackled almost at full speed. Gronholm made it three in a row with another stage win, while Sebastien Loeb, who stalled on the start-line, was second and Petter Solberg third. Many drivers, including Sebastien Loeb, Marcus Gronholm and Henning Solberg reported problems with heavy landings after the numerous jumps in the new stage. One jump in particular, which had seemed deceptively gentle on the recce, seemed to catch out most crews. Petter Solberg estimated that his car was launched three metres in the air after they hit it at 190kph. With less opportunity to brace themselves, co-drivers tended to be the worst affected, and some complained of back and rib pain after the violent impacts. After losing time in a ditch earlier in the day, Jani Paasonen suffered more misfortune when his Skoda lost a rear wheel in a heavy landing. Although the Finn managed to complete much of the test on the three remaining wheels, his car finally ground to a halt 3km from the finish line and he retired from the Leg. Fastest Stage Time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 17:03.7
SS6: 1346 Mokkipera 1 (13.93km)
The Mokkipera stage is famous for its sequence of six exhilarating jumps in the first 1.5km. However, after the jarring some drivers had received on the previous test, this proved to be a more painful experience than usual. Crucially, Marcus Gronholm's co-driver, Timo Rautiainen was in so much back pain that he was unable to read his notes for most of the test. As a result Gronholm backed off the pace, which cost him 8sec to the stage winner, Petter Solberg. Sebastien Loeb was second fastest, with Markko Martin third. After the stage, crews returned to Jyvaskyla for a 30-minute service. As well as carrying out repairs to the cars, injured drivers were checked over by their medical teams before leaving for the final group of three stages. Fastest Stage Time: Solberg (Subaru) 6:49.1
SS7: 1606 Vellipohja 2 (33.93km)
Revitalised after the service halt, crews made their way back into the countryside for the final group of three stages - each a repeat of one from earlier in the Leg. Marcus Gronholm quickly recovered his leading pace and set the fastest time, while Sebastien Loeb was second and Toni Gardemeister third. On the overall leaderboard, the battle between Gronholm and Loeb was still tight and, after the stage, the two were separated by only 4.4sec, with Petter 25sec further back in third. Roman Kresta, driving one of the three works team Fords, dropped more than 11min with an engine ECU fault. Anthony Warmbold was another Focus driver in trouble; he lost a similar amount of time with an electrical throttle problem. Fastest Stage Time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 16:57.1
SS8: 1714 Mokkipera 2 (13.93km)
The battle at the top of the leaderboard intensified slightly as Loeb won the stage, a slim 0.3sec ahead of Gronholm in second and 0.8sec ahead of Markko Martin who was third. But the biggest news from SS8 concerned Petter Solberg, who dropped 20sec to the leaders after an incident-filled 13kms. Early in the test, a sharp impact to the back of the car dislodged his Impreza's boot lid and spoiler, which seriously affected its aerodynamic properties - particularly at the rear. Without the stabilising influence of its wing, the rear end of Petter's car shot high into the air at the next jump, with the result that it landed squarely on its nose. Before any of its wheels had touched the ground, and at high speed, Petter's car was deflected left into a ditch where it continued along for more than 100 metres, collecting further damage from rocks and trees as it went. Shaken but undeterred, Petter and Phil immediately re-joined the road and powered their battered Subaru across the line in the 15th fastest time. The time lost dropped Petter to fourth overall, and promoted Markko Martin to third. Fastest Stage Time: Loeb (Citroen)
SS9: 1837 Killeri 2 (2.06km)
Leg one ended with a return trip to the Superspecial stage at the Killeri horse-trotting track. As before, crews tackled the 2km loop in pairs in front of thousands of enthusiastic spectators. Marcus Gronholm set the fastest time, with Markko Martin second and Toni Gardemeister third. The state of Petter's once pristine Impreza drew gasps from the crowd, but he continued to push it as hard as possible around the twisty circuit. He set the 12th fastest time and conceded another place on the leaderboard, to end the day trailing Toni Gardemeister's fourth position by 0.1sec. Fastest Stage Time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 1:20.3
Subaru World Rally Team Principal, David Lapworth
It's been a day of ups and downs! Petter's been at the top of the times and we've seen Chris running in the top eight on one of the most competitive events of the year. Finland has, however, got a big reputation for never being straightforward and we've had some big disappointments along the way. While Chris made a mistake costing him a points finish, Petter's biggest moment near the end of the day cost him a lot of time. Petter still has much to drive for, as he is just outside a podium finish. We came here for more than that and we now have the next two days to do all we can to get him back up there.
The car and tyres were improving through the day and we were in a good position near the top of the times. At the end of the day we lost a lot of time when, after clipping the rear wing from the car, we had no downforce over a massive jump in SS8. We landed on the radiator then went off into a ditch and hit a lot of rocks and trees. It is a long time since I had something like that. It was amazing that the car popped back out again and onto the road and we were able to continue. I think almost the whole side was ripped off and we still continued. The guys have done a good job to get everything back together. I'm not giving up and tomorrow we'll be pushing really hard for third.
It was all going really well and we were pleased to be running in the top eight when you are up against the top WRC guys and the locals that know these stages so well. We just clipped a rock with an open wheel on the inside of a slow corner near the end of stage four and it damaged the steering. We managed to get another couple of hundred metres down the road, but it could go no further. I really didn't expect to go out on a second gear corner in Finland! It's a frustrating mistake, but we've still got a job to do, and we'll get back on it over the next couple of days.
News From Pirelli
Paul Hembery, Pirelli Motorsport Director: "We're fully satisfied with the performance of our 'K' tyres on the high-speed gravel of this rally. We're confident we can deliver a strong points finish by Sunday."